E W smiled with his whole face, not just his mouth. His eyes smiled, too. He could make you laugh anytime, anywhere. He was just another of the individuals that, as a boy, gave me a glimpse into what it meant to be a man. Men like my father, Uncle Ralph and E. W. - I figured these men could charge into hell with water pistols and scare the devil out of his own house. They had the answers to every question, they knew the solution to every problem and they navigated families through good times and hard times. But while I aligned him with these men of strength and fortitude, I also found a "human" edge to E.W. Wait, as a man you can be strong AND caring, sensitive and nurturing? To put it in terms usually used to describe athletes, E.W. was the whole package.
While in the Army, he guarded a water tower somewhere in Arizona carrying only a broomstick (because there wasn't ample supply of weapons....although late in the day on December 7, 1941 they found a need to put a real weapon in his hand.) He served in Europe in WWII and then came home and married his sweetheart. His honeymoon was cut short because his sweetheart had to get home lest she ruin her perfect Sunday school attendance record. They spent the next 59 years building a life that included five children, twelve grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren.
They laid E.W. to rest yesterday while a bugler played "Taps." He received military honors and they handed the aforementioned sweetheart with perfect Sunday school attendance his folded flag. I went to a hero's funeral yesterday. As I walked away from his grave, I was reminded of the day back in 1985 when we buried my own father. That day, as we started to depart the grave site, I looked back to find E.W. standing over the place where my father was buried. He was sobbing uncontrollably. He was the last person to walk away from that grave. I realized then that he and my dad were more brothers than friends. I also realized that being heartbroken and letting your emotions show make you no less a man than the next guy. My wife often scolds me for being so hard on myself. I hope that after spending the last couple of days learning of the legacy left by the men that raised me she understands why.